Menopause: a new stage in my life
Menopause is a natural phenomenon that occurs at around the age of 50 in women. A woman is considered to be menopausal when she has not had a menstrual period for 12 months in succession.
The end of periods means that the reproductive hormones progesterone and oestrogen are no longer produced by the ovaries. This lack of hormones has side effects that vary in intensity and effect: hot flushes, night sweats, weight gain, mood swings etc. It also makes the skin and mucous membranes less elastic, and brings about a loss of muscle tone.
- The urinary system is also affected by these changes:
- the bladder loses some flexibility
- the sphincters have less tone and therefore are less able to prevent urine from leaking out of the bladder
- the pelvic floor muscles tend to relax and therefore support the lower abdomen less effectively.
- This is why many women experience urinary problems when they reach menopause. What usually happens is that:
- they need to urinate frequently and often urgently, both during the day and at night.
- they have a weaker flow of urine
- they can leak urine during physical exertion (stress incontinence) or when some senses are stimulated (by cold or the noise of running water)
- To prevent urinary incontinence when you have reached menopause:
- Stay fit and keep your muscles toned.
- Talk to your doctor immediately if you have a urinary tract infection or any problem with urination.
- Avoid constipation: drink 1.5 litres of water each day, eat lots of fibre-rich foods, and take regular physical exercise (walk for at least 30 minutes every day).
- Don’t strain in order to urinate faster: this weakens the pelvic floor muscles.
- Avoid tight trousers that compress the lower abdomen.
- Look after your emotional life: regular sex strengthens the pelvic floor muscles.
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